Fantastic news for bibliophiles in West Hollywood: The city has launched a grant program to build and maintain tiny libraries.
West Hollywood residents can apply on the city's website for one of eight $600 grants to build a Little Free Library. To qualify, you have to prove the property you plan to build it on is in West Hollywood, either build or buy the physical library, register it online and keep it stocked with books and maintained for one year.
Little Free Library is a nonprofit that got its start in 2009, when a man named Todd Bol built a schoolhouse-shaped box in his frontyard and filled it with free books for neighbors to take. According to the group's website, more than 36,000 Little Free Libraries now exist around the country. You can enter your ZIP code on the site's map to find the one closest to you.
Little Free Libraries are created and maintained independent of a city's public library system. There are no due dates or late fees. Many patrons use a "take a book, leave a book" exchange system. The people who build the tiny libraries don't need to worry about checking books out or keeping track of who has each one: It's a communal honor system.
In most cases, library "owners" start off by using their own books. But in West Hollywood, the group Friends of the West Hollywood Library has agreed to donate a starter set of books to each person who receives a grant from the city to build one.
Renters don't have to feel left out: The city just asks that they get their landlord's permission to build it. Libraries have to be built on private property and not obstruct the public's right of way or block the view from spaces such as driveways.
West Hollywood launched its first Little Free Library in January during the citywide Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service. You can visit it in front of the West Hollywood Elementary School, 970 Hammond St.
"The city of West Hollywood really is very supportive of the arts and a love of literature," said Mike Che, the economic development and cultural affairs coordinator for the city. The grant conditions include a year of maintaining the library because "we figure a year is enough time for them to fall in love with it."
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